First global knowledge index highlights importance of developing GCC education

Global Knowledge Index, released by MBRF and UNDP, creates index to show status of worldwide development of knowledge development

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First global knowledge index highlights importance of developing GCC education Turki: GCC countries can improve their knowledge base through more focus on key areas.
By  Mark Sutton Published  January 22, 2018

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation (MBRF), and the the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), have collaborated to launch the first Global Knowledge Index, an index to measure a nation’s knowledge development.

The Global Knowledge Index 2017 was released by the Knowledge Project at the end of November. This first edition of the GKI shows some strong results in some sectors for the GCC, but countries in the region lag behind global competitors in key areas such as higher education and R&D.

The Global Knowledge Index identifies knowledge as an integral part of human life, affecting its social, economic and cultural aspects, as well as an engine for comprehensive and sustainable human development. The index was first announced during the Knowledge Summit 2016, to highlight the strategic role of knowledge and the importance of developing objective and scientific tools to measure and evaluate knowledge.

The Index is based on a combination of six indicators: Higher education; pre-university education; technical/vocational training and continued education; information and communication technology; scientific research and innovation; and, finally, economics, in addition to a general indicator of enabling environments.
The index is calculated across 133 variables covering various vital sectors in the country, such as enrolment, graduation and dropout rates in schools; literacy; unemployment; life expectancy at birth; e-government; political stability; regulatory and legal frameworks; patents; private-sector indicators; quality and availability of human resources (students, teachers, professionals and researchers), among other criteria.

Dr Hani Turki, Director and Chief Technical Advisor of the Knowledge Project, described the Global Knowledge Index as “a major step” in the comprehensive and sustainable knowledge-based development drive in the UAE. In its first edition, the index includes 131 countries, selected based on the availability of reliable and credible data. The Project aims for the Index to become a practical tool that supports decision-makers and stakeholders. The objective is for the index to cover the entire world eventually.

Dr Turki stressed that the index should not be taken as a ranking, but rather as a means for countries to see where they stand on the different areas of knowledge. An indepth analytical version of the report is set for release in April.

“The index provides policymakers with the needed tools to determine their status in terms of education (be it pre-university education, TVET or higher education), RDI, ICT, the economy or the general enabling environment. The Index also presents a thorough documentation of the indicators that are entailed in these sectors; we are thus enabling countries to know where they stand and, perhaps more importantly, what areas need to be improved,” he said.

The first edition saw Switzerland take first place with 71.8 points out of 100, closely followed by Singapore (69.5), Finland (68.5), Sweden (68.3), Netherlands (68), the United States (67.2), Luxembourg (66.2), the United Kingdom (65.6), Denmark (65.2) and Norway (64.3).

In the GCC region, the UAE was first overall, and 25th in the global ranking, with a score of 59. Bahrain ranked 43rd on the list, with a score of 50, followed by Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman. Kuwait was on par with the global average score of 47 out of 100, while Saudi and Oman were both below the average.

All of the GCC countries showed relatively low rankings on research & development investment, and all apart from the UAE scored lower on higher education. Other issues which held down the scores for the region included lack of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and economic factors.

Dr Turki commented: “For GCC countries to have a competitive higher education sector, they need to increase graduation rates and not compromise on education quality while ensuring that graduates are equipped with the adequate skills to access the labour market. For this, undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate programmes need to be revised. I also believe that fostering teaching faculties to teach and train instructors will raise the quality of teaching.

“When we look at the RDI sectoral index values, we realise that the countries topping the list are those that have higher GERDs. Therefore, as a rule of thumb to improve their RDI performance, countries ought to spend more on R&D. The GCC can follow the example of the European Union that has launched an initiative in 2010 to improve conditions and put resources into RDI, while ensuring that innovative thoughts can be converted into products and services that respond to key challenges and generate growth and jobs. Additionally, efforts should be put into improving the outputs of social innovation by creating an innovation culture through establishing centres and programmes that promote innovation,” he added.

In TVET, Dr Turki said that the problem resides in the features of the labour market, where they have recorded very low scores in variables related to work ethics and labour regulations, when compared to other countries. He recommends that governments form specialised agencies that offer vocational programmes, to create appropriate skills for the labour market.

Countries should also look to develop flexible labour markets as restrictive labour regulations hurt the economy by hindering companies and employees from adjusting to fluctuating economic conditions.

“I believe that the GCC countries are very much able to enhance their performance in the future through the vision of their leaders, and they will also be competing with leading countries (some of them, like the United Arab Emirates, already are), as they are already at the heart of world economics and politics with a competitive industrial base, strong infrastructure and trade hubs, in addition to their abundant resources. The future versions of the Global Knowledge Index will be emphasising this progress, inshallah,” Dr Turki added.

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